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About a year ago, I quit my job at Apple because I wasn't able to apply my technical skills in my role and I was not successful in transferring to another department (full blog post: http://minimaxir.com/2017/05/leaving-apple/ | HN discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14270897)

Despite the loss of a salary and frustration in getting another job (Tweetstorm about data science job hunting: https://twitter.com/minimaxir/status/951117788835278848), quitting was 100% the correct move in retrospect.

I'm currently about to quit Microsoft and am going through the exact same set of questions in my head. I joined the company a few months ago and am blown away by how bad the culture is - or how badly I fit into the culture, take your pick.

If you don't fit the culture, it's time to leave.

A massive issue with Microsoft's college recruiting pipeline (this may not apply to you) is that college hires are placed pretty much arbitrarily without input from the hire themselves.

People interested in backend work get placed on frontend, people interested in frontend work get placed on backend. As a result, retention for Microsoft college hires is rather poor. Contrast this with Google where once you're selected you're often given a choice of a few teams and you can indicate your preference.

I have had the exact opposite experience.

The first thing I was asked when I interviewed with Microsoft was what I wanted to do and what I wanted to avoid. I said, no frontend, something related to distributed systems and they put me up for interviews with an Azure team.

With Google, it was like "interview first, accept the offer before knowing where you are going to be placed, and we will put you in some team".

These are good anecdotes to share. A few years ago when I was a Microsoft college hire I got my impression from gathering anecdotes from others, but maybe it's better now!

Google absolutely has the problem you described and I forgot to mention it in my prior comment. With Google you have no clue what team you'll be on when you're evaluating the offer, but once you've accepted the offer you're given more choice with regards to placement.

That's a really interesting comparison. I've worked at Microsoft and got an offer from Google and found the opposite to be true. I was first offered by the team I interned with, whom I liked, and accepted, so I knew where I was going.

On the Google case, even being an industry hire, it was like pulling teeth to figure out where the offer actually was, and who I would be working for, and being able to actually speak with them (as your manager is key to success). I was also told during the interview that they just interview you in general at Google, not for a particular team, which was also unsettling.

What you say is completely true. If you were an intern at Microsoft you can be pretty sure you're returning to that team (unless there's a reorganization). With Google you have no idea what team you'll end up on when you're evaluating an offer.

However, once you accept a Google offer you're given more choice as to what team you'll be on. With Microsoft (if you weren't a returning intern) you're given very little to no choice and it can be quite arbitrary where you end up.

Certainly both of these systems have massive flaws, but I think the Microsoft system would lead to far lower retention for non-intern college hires.

Sort of true. You get accepted to a division at Microsoft (as a new grad) and if there's headcount on multiple teams for someone of your level you can choose between them. A lot of the time there's only one team that is willing to take on a junior engineer.

This is what I was told when I interviewed with Microsoft... Day of they said "you're interviewing with the SQL Server team" and I was like wtf...

I worked full time as a software engineer before I finished my CS degree, but I wasn't really happy with my situation and wanted to do something else. As I was interviewing with companies through the my university's Career Services department, I recall being complimented by several interviewers on how specific I was regarding my goals and desired position. I wanted to work on a specific OS/platform with specific languages.

I guess I was lucky because I'd already had relevant experience, so I knew exactly what I did and did not want to do. Luckily, the offer I went with was up-front and I ended up doing exactly what I wanted to do.

Playing devils advocate, could it be a lack of experience that is the issue with new hires?

I stayed at Microsoft a lot longer than I should have because I could not imagine what I wanted to do next. That experience ground away at my self-confidence, every day I was there, and I should have left much sooner. Only after leaving did I start to unwind enough that I could imagine other possibilities worth pursuing.

I've heard that the culture varies widely between groups, but the culture in the Visual Studio group was not one which ever had any hope of creating space for me to use the skills and creative outlook everyone genuinely seemed to believe they were hiring me for. If you don't fit the culture, then yes, I agree, leave as soon as you can.

Out of curiosity, which part of Microsoft have you joined? The culture in large companies can vary greatly between divisions.

What aspects of the culture do you not like?

Yes, that's very true of course. I came from a large enterprise company (100,000+ employees) so I know it's really only your immediate team culture that matters.

I joined Microsoft Canada. Perhaps Corp HQ is different, but here in the sub it quickly became clear that a culture of fear and CYA is alive and well. There are dozens of meetings where the primary objective is to make sure that the organizer doesn't get blamed for stuff.

Honestly, what blew me away even more was the terrible quality of execution. It's 2018, and apparently it's impossible to embed a reg form into a page. Everyone agrees that we should do it, but no one is willing to take responsibility. I tried, but multiple teams agreed that it's not my job to do it - it's not their job either, apparently, but it's definitely not mine!

I'm sure Microsoft is a great place to work (I was excited to join as well), and maybe I just got really unlucky with my manager, but the idea of spending my days writing emails for CYA and not focusing on a great customer experience is not my idea of what I want from a job.

Another anecdote - planning and strategy is done by FTE (full time employees), but the execution is often left to vendors - and no one really cares whether customers see a high quality outcome. It's almost comical how bad some things are.

Sigh, I don't mean this to be a rant, but maybe someone else reads this.

At the end of the day, no job is worth being unhappy at - or worth compromising your own personal integrity (to be clear - here I mean my desire to provide great customer experiences - MS is a very ethical and honest company in my experience)

Can confirm. The variety of team cultures I've seen at Microsoft so far is insane, and my guess is that it would be the case for other similarly-sized tech companies. The range has been all the way from atrocious to good to great, with no particular leaning towards one (unlike what I heard about Amazon, though)

Agreed. Softie > 5 years, dramatically different culture amongst the three teams I've been in.

"Joined a few months ago" "blown away by culture".

I don't work at MS but generalizing a companies culture by working for a few months is silly. I've worked for 3 years at a big 4 and have seen excellent culture and poor culture and something in the middle. Don't generalize a company by your departments poor culture, there could be shining stars elsewhere.

I don't know if we know one another, but the same here: quit my job of many years at Apple (engineering, very good rank, loved Apple) because I also wasn't able to apply my technical skills, and transferring to another department is really hard to time such that it works.

Same here, left same company, for similar reasons. It was also about advancement though. Once you’re at level 4 it takes god like technical skills and a lot of political showing-off to get promoted to level 5 or move into management. If you’re an “up or out” kind of person you’re going to be frustrated there!

Do you remember hearing the saying: “It’s easier to get hired at [other very selective tech company] than to move internally at Apple”? So true!

Diagonal promotion is a real thing across Silicon Valley.

I believe it is because the company that currently employs you knows you relatively well, both your upsides and your downsides, it has seen your good code and your bad code. It has you, and knows your level of work, and assumes you will keep going, regardless.

Whereas the new company has much more limited information and, as it needs someone more, it has to take the plunge.

Other people in the linked HN discussion had similar experiences. It's genuinely weird.

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